Last week I met up with a college friend who is now getting her Masters at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. After some much-needed catching up, we made our way closer to the city center for lunch. Neither of us is familiar with the food options in Geneva so we decided to try out a restaurant she had been told about on Rue de Zurich: Le Baobab. The baobab is the national tree of Senegal – and guess what kind of food they serve at Le Baobab? None other than Senegalese. That was a first for me – good thing I was with a native to help me navigate the menu!
We chose the Senegalese national dish: Thiéboudienne or Ceebu Jën (literally “The Rice of Fish”). We were served a mound of reddish rice, accompanied by a large lemon, and a generous bowl of fish and vegetables (eggplant, yucca, carrots and others) cooked in tomato paste and various spices. The rice is cooked in the same sauce where the fish and vegetables are cooked, hence the reddish tint – and delicious flavor.
Can you recall a time when you tried an exotic dish and thought, “Oh, that’s quite good,” but knew right away that you would never have it again? That was not the case with this dish; I’m hoping to get invited to some family parties soon!
To top it all off, some fresh hibiscus juice (my friend had a mix of hibiscus and ginger – even better!). See for yourself:
Pâquis, the neighborhood where Le Baobab is located, is supposed to be the “bad” part of Geneva. It’s infamous for its abundance of drugs and prostitutes (I first learned of this in Paulo Coelho’s Onze Minutos – I told F that Rue de Berne was strictly off limits!). In all honestly, every bad neighborhood seems rather harmless after having lived on the South Side of Chicago. I actually think it’s a very lively and diverse area, hence why F and I were able to have a virtually-home-cooked Brazilian meal just yesterday.
The place we stumbled upon is called Peniche, alluding to a seaside town in Portugal. Although it was clearly Portuguese-owned (with its numerous Portuguese flags hanging from the walls), the waitress was a very friendly Brazilian woman and the portly men crowding the bar were also Brazilian (How did I know? The accent is so distinct. Not to mention, Brazilian country music was blasting from the flat screen TV in one of the corners, catering to its customers). We were quickly seated and offered Brazilian beer and everyone’s favorite: the feijoada. Any plate with white rice and black beans as the main components is bound to be a hit with me. I had been dreaming of having a feijoada, ever since I first learned of it in my college Portuguese class. My expectations were met and exceeded – total rice, bean, and pork overload: